About a third of Cubans say they receive money from friends or family members living abroad, and most of that foreign cash goes to making ends meet on the island, according to a Bendixen & Amandi Poll for Univision Noticias- Fusion in collaboration with The Washington Post. The poll is the largest independent survey of its kind conducted on the island in more than 50 years.
Thirty-four percent of Cubans say they receive cash infusions from overseas, and 61 percent of them said the money comes from relatives in the United States. The other countries sending the most money back to Cuba are Spain (12 percent) and Italy (6 percent), according to the poll.
The survey shows that more than 3 million Cuban adults receive about $3 billion in remittances every year; the average individual payment is around $1,000.
Only 17 percent of Cubans who receive remittances say their payments average more than $2,000. More than 70 percent say they get money sent to them on a monthly basis, or once every several months. Most Cubans say they share the money with at least one other person in their household; only 10 percent said they keep it all for themselves.
Cubans also appear to be mostly using the money sent to the island to cover day-to-day costs, rather than investing in the future. Ninety-four percent of Cubans who receive remittances say they use the money for "every day expenses," while 44 percent said "luxuries" (a relative term in Cuba). Thirty-nine percent said they try to salt away some money into savings, and 17 percent said they use remittances to help cover education costs. Only 11 percent said they invest that money in a private business, even though 70 percent of Cubans say they're interested in owning their own business.
Remittances aren't a new phenomenon in Cuba. Seventy-three percent of Cubans who receive money from abroad say the payments have been arriving for three years or more, and 39 percent said they've been getting money for more than five years.
Cubans also hope that normalization of relations with the U.S. will bring more consumerism to the island. Forty-three percent said they hope more U.S. supermarkets will come to the island— the top answer given to the question, "what American products or services would you most like to be offered in Cuba?"
With more stuff to buy and new opportunities for private enterprise and travel, remittances are likely to play an increasingly important role in subsidizing the local Cuban economy — a trend that's consistent with other countries in the region.
The survey, conducted by local Cuban pollsters under the direction of the Miami-based firm Bedixen & Amandi and without the consent of the Cuban government, interviewed 1,200 adult Cubans across the island between March 17-27. The data offers a unique insight into public opinion on an island where reliable polling is notoriously difficult and where 75 percent of Cubans claim they have to be careful what they say in public. It's the first survey of Cuban public opinion since the Dec. 17 announcement of bilateral efforts to normalize U.S.-Cuban relations. (Read more on methodology here).
The poll claims a 2.8 percent margin of error and a 95 percent confidence level.
Read full poll results here.
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Editor's note: The headline on an earlier version was incorrect. 94% of the 34% of Cubans who receive remittances use them to cover day to day expenses, not 94% of Cubans.